It is February 8, 2008 (just barely–53 minutes left).
Ten years ago tonight, I was nineteen and home after a date with my then-boyfriend. The relationship was just beginning to deteriorate; by September it would be over after two and a half years. I had been studying magic and paganism for a couple of years, but hadn’t really focused myself. I was a sophomore in college, and still living with my parents to try to get through college without student loans.
Little did I know that I was on the verge of a change. While I spent most of my teen years rather isolated since I didn’t have much in the way of friends until college, my twenties ended up being roaring, to say the very least! On the cusp of that incredible decade, I met Artemis for the first time. I think she had always been there, but hadn’t really had a good opportunity to introduce herself. I remember being vaguely dissatisfied with my relationship with my boyfriend, and so it shouldn’t have surprised me that what would happen that night would help me to break out of some bad patterns, including with relationships.
There I was in my room, with the moonlight streaming in (the moon was not quite full). And then I had the sudden urge–to dance. I had never danced before. I had always been that one at the school dances who sat on the sidelines, scared to go out there. I had been so out of touch with what was popular I didn’t even recognize the music. And I was terribly self-conscious, so the concept of dancing was alien to me. Yet there, alone in the moonlight, I danced, and I danced freeform. Back and forth around the bed I danced, exulting in the beauty of the light, the feeling of my graceful body, the sheer joy of not giving a damn what anyone thought. And in that moment Artemis made herself known to me, and told me I was hers.
I don’t remember what she told me, exactly. But from that moment on, I began to change. I became more independent and self-assertive. I became more bold in my relationships. I stopped hemming and hawing about paganism, and decided to just dive on in. And over the next decade I would do my best to emulate this goddess I admired so much, and who taught me a lot just through her example.
She never demanded strict worship from me; all she asked was that I come and talk to her every February 8 in remembrance of that first night. And so I have done so every year. Sometimes I did a formal ritual; other times we simply took a walk together. This year she came and chatted with me as I walked from work to the train station. She told me that the reason she never demanded a lot from me was that she wanted me to grow with my own mind and heart, that she wanted me to be wild, not domesticated. It left a lot to be desired in the discipline department, but she felt I honored her through my freedom and growth as an individual, something I needed a lot more than living by rank-and-file.
Today, though, was different. A year ago, when I spoke with her, she told me that a male god would be coming into my life soon–she didn’t tell me who, but she told me to prepare to work with him more closely. Not that she would go away entirely, but she would step back and let him take over for a while. And it turns out that that god was the Animal Father, with whom I’ll be working more closely for the time being. While I still haven’t made the final decision to take the shamanism route, I will be working with him one way or another. So this weekend the change will happen, and start a new phase.
The changes in me and my life won’t be immediately apparent, of course. Nothing like that really happens overnight, no matter how big the catalyst. But I am changing my life-role, so to speak. I’m going from the young maiden running wild through the woods, traveling hither and yon on her own, learning to be herself, but ultimately rootless, to the one who protects and sustains the tribe, maintaining good relations with the land we rely on for life. My need in the past year or so to start settling down, my marriage a year and a half ago, my growing interest in sustainable living–these are all things that are necessary to this new stage of life, and adhering to the archetype that is presented as a role model for me. It’s time to take the things learned in the past decade, and make something new of them. My most immediate “tribe” may consist of me, my husband, and our cats, but there are numerous people and other living beings that I can help.
I’ll admit, I am a little scared, and sad. I think I just got so used to Artemis’ constant presence that I never thought of being without her. It’s not that I can’t still talk to her; it’s just that her influence will be a lot less, and the Animal Father’s much more. While I’m exciting about continuing to grow, there’s still sadness that this phase of my life is ending, one that was really important to developing who I am. This November I’ll be turning thirty, but I’m less worried about that than about this marker of time.
But she’ll still be around; I’m not losing her. And I know she’ll let me know if I’m in need of her guidance (if I don’t think to ask!). I was going to do a ritual tonight, but I’m just too damned tired. So tomorrow will do. Believe it or not, this is pretty incredible for me. Before I started on the therioshamanism path, it was not at all uncommon for me to put off rituals for weeks or even months (a couple got postponed for years), or not done at all. So a delay of a day is pretty good. I still want to be more consistent, but this will do.
And I know she’s proud of me.